Ta'Kiya Young was shot and killed by police in the parking lot of a grocery store on August 24th. She was 21 years old, a mother with two kids at home, 6 and 3, and seven months pregnant with a third, due to be born in November. Ta'Kiya was already in the driver’s seat of her car when officers approached the vehicle and ordered her to get out. When she asked why, she was informed that store employees claimed she had stolen items. One officer stood at her window while a second positioned himself in front of the car and drew his service weapon. Ta'Kiya placed the car in drive and began to accelerate forward, driving the officer who was in front of the vehicle backwards. After shouting orders for her to stop, the officer fired one round, striking Ta'Kiya. The car subsequently rolled into the front of the store, at which time officers broke the driver’s side window to gain entry and began administering medical aid, assisted by an emergency physician who was also at the scene. Ta'Kiya was transported to the hospital where she died.
The bodycam footage of the incident has now been released (HERE).
Ta'Kiya’s grandmother, Nadine, reported that Ta'Kiya was “family-oriented” and loving and told the local news: “It shouldn't have ever, ever, ever happened. She shouldn't be gone. It was just wrong.” Thus far there has been no word from Ta'Kiya’s husband, or father, or any mention of either man.
This is a tragic story, one at which every person who hears of it should lament. The grocery store reported to the police that Ta'Kiya had shoplifted alcohol, but who could believe that a 21 year old mother who was seven months pregnant with her third child would be drinking alcohol at that stage of pregnancy, much less stealing it? No doubt she was frightened when confronted by police, and when they ordered her to get out, Ta'Kiya made an adult decision to deescalate the situation by putting her car in gear and stepping on the accelerator. The officer who chose to stand in front of her car was obviously foolish. Didn't he know that doing so would make it difficult for her to leave the scene? Why didn't he accept the consequences of his bad decision and allowed Ta'Kiya to run him over rather than firing his gun at her?
Now Ta'Kiya is dead. So is her unborn child. The family’s lawyer said in an interview with the AP that Ta'Kiya was “murdered unjustifiably” and insisted: “She is the victim here, and we demand accountability for the loss of two precious lives — Ta'Kiya and her unborn daughter.” It is refreshing to see the unborn child counted as a human life and victim in this particular incident, even if it is in the context of human tragedy.
Where is Ta'Kiya’s husband? Where is the man (or men) who fathered her three children? Where is her father or her grandfather? Did they try to counsel Ta'Kiya? Did they counsel her when she became a teenage mother, twice? Did they talk to her about how to respond to police encounters? Have any of them spoken to Ta'Kiya’s grandmother, who is understandably distraught, and ask her not to speak to the media? Did any of them think to rebuke the family attorney, Sean Walton, or suggest that blame for this tragedy might lie elsewhere: with Ta'Kiya, with her family, and with the men who failed to guide and protect her?
It should not be surprising that this shooting is being referred to as “murder” when we see news footage every week of stores being looted without any visible resistance from employees or public safety authorities. Ta'Kiya’s family and surviving children are not the only ones who will live forever in the shadow of her shooting. So too will the two police officers and their families, so will the store employees who reported her for shoplifting, so will the doctor who tried to save her life in the parking lot and healthcare workers at the hospital who did what they could before she died. Two boys will grow up without a mother. Who will take care of them now? Will it be the same people who raised Ta'Kiya and who are characterizing her as a victim and her death as murder?
Ta'Kiya’s death is tragic on many levels, and it reinforces the fact that family structure, child rearing, and mentorship are matters of life and death. Ta'Kiya was practically a child herself, yet she was already the mother of three. She should have been painting a nursery for her daughter. Instead she was at a store gathering bottles of alcohol. The family attorney says that a witness will testify she put the bottles down inside the store before she left, but if that proves true, it only makes her attempt to flee all the more tragic and unnecessary.
Ta'Kiya did not have to get out of the car. She could have left it in park, turned off the engine, and asked the officers to let her call her dad. I wish her father had been there or her husband. I wish one of them had gone to the store in her place to get whatever alcohol they thought they needed. Ta'Kiya certainly did not need any, nor did her unborn child. I wish she had talked to the officers. I wish she had not tried to hit a police officer with her car. I wish none of the parties involved had to be in that situation or to live with the consequences that they do now.
Where was Ta'Kiya’s husband? Where was her father? Where are the men in the family willing to stand up and take responsibility for what occurred? If they are there, why are they simply standing by? Matriarchy does not strengthen human families; it weakens them. It leaves them vulnerable, exposed to dangers of all kinds, including the dangers of self-deception and self-justification about one’s own righteousness.
Ta'Kiya did not have to die that day, but it is not the police officer’s fault that she did. He will live the rest of his life regretting that he pulled that trigger, and Ta'Kiya’s family should live the rest of their lives regretting that she pressed the accelerator of her car. Ta'Kiya’s memory is not well-served by a grandmother who makes excuses for her or a lawyer who refers to police officers as her murderers. But if there are no men to lead, to step in and say enough, to protect young women even if it must be from themselves, then this story that will continue to recur. May God have mercy upon Ta'Kiya’s family and those officers, and may America repent of the kind of matriarchy that creates such tragedy. ---JME